FAA modernization plan is delayed by three years

FAA modernization plan is delayed by three years

The Federal Aviation Administration this week released the latest version of its Operational Evolution Plan for airspace modernization, highlighting greater air travel efficiency but also giving notice of a three-year extension. The new Version 5.0 of the plan has a 'crisper vision that emphasizes collaborative decision-making, required navigation performance and shared information systems,' FAA administrator Marion Blakey said in a statement.

The modernization project's 2010 completion date has now become 2013.

'Though current economic conditions caused us to delay some initiatives,' FAA officials said, 'the plan continues to reflect the maturing of procedures and new technologies.' They attributed the delay to financial uncertainty about certain runway programs as well as the timing of airlines' readying their fleets for OEP initiatives. FAA has had to suspend Precision Runway Monitor operations in Minneapolis because of safety issues, for example. Also, runways that are being built at less than standard spacing lack the necessary surveillance capability.

'A wide range of challenges face the implementation efforts in the coming year,' the plan said. Its goal is to improve the capacity and efficiency of the National Airspace System, but numerous individual projects could affect the completion date. One project, the Integrated Terminal Weather System, is already off budget and schedule [see story at www.gcn.com/vol1_no1/daily-updates/20818-1.html].

Bill Shumann, an FAA spokesman, said the ITWS issues have not affected the overall plan yet. 'Depending on what happens with the program, that could change,' he said. 'But the ITWS is a small portion of the total $11.5 billion.'

FAA is counting on the airline industry to spend about that much, too.

'If all the airlines and general aviation'everybody who flies in the system'were to do everything in the equipage and training plan, it would cost the industry about $11 billion over 10 years,' Shumann said.

Two other major projects'the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System and revamping the Host system for air traffic controllers'were not far enough along to appear in Version 5.0.

Version 5.0 holds several improvements:
  • Increases in arrival and departure rates at Phoenix and Detroit airports because of several new runways

  • An operational Traffic Management Advisor at seven airports

  • Implementation of Four-corner Post airspace redesign in Las Vegas

  • An operational User Request Evaluation Tool at six traffic control centers.
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